UnitingSA is investing more than $100,000 in a new PhD scholarship to research the role that peer support workers, who have lived experience of mental illness, play in helping others access services and supports.
The research will strongly align with the State Government’s new Mental Health Services Plan 2020-25, released last week, which emphasises the importance of putting a lived experience workforce at the centre of service delivery.
UnitingSA CEO Libby Craft and UniSA Chair in Mental Health Nursing, Professor Nicholas Procter, welcome the direction of the new Mental Health Services Plan and are committed to using the momentum to progress research aligned with improving client outcomes.
The research will investigate how peer support workers are making a difference, especially in helping people with depression or suicide ideation, and focus on improvements to consumer access to community-based crisis and support services.
Prof Procter says the research will build vital knowledge about the kinds of services that make a meaningful impact for people in crisis.
“What we understand as best practice in mental health care across the system, whether that be from nurses, GPs, social workers or other health care professionals, is that it is vital that they engage closely with the lived experience of people tackling mental ill-health,” Prof Procter says.
“This is now central to our curriculum at UniSA and increasingly central to how governments plan mental health services.
“We are all agreed that for too long, the experiences of those suffering mental illness have been ignored or dismissed and we need to turn that around.”
Libby Craft says the opportunity to partner with UniSA to advance the sector’s understanding of the role and impact of lived experience in mental health service delivery is invaluable.
“Lived experience workers within Mental Health Services use skills and knowledge developed from their own recovery journey to support people from a unique place of understanding and compassion,” she says.
“At UnitingSA, we already see positive client outcomes as a result of putting lived experience workers at the heart of our service delivery.
“As a leading provider of community Mental Health Services, we’re dedicated to investing in research designed to enhance person-centred service delivery models across the sector.
“This research will contribute towards the evidence-base needed to enhance our work and shape future mental health services.
“It is a significant opportunity to translate research into meaningful healthcare improvements.”
Prof Procter says UnitingSA’s foresight in supporting new research in the field should be commended.
“The scholarship will underpin the creation of valuable new knowledge about delivering effective services to people with mental illness.”
UnitingSA was established in 1919 and provides housing, aged care and community services to support people right across South Australia.
Lived experience workers are embedded in all of UnitingSA’s Mental Health Services, which support more than 1000 people across metropolitan and regional South Australia each year.
UnitingSA is the first agency in South Australia, and one of the few across Australia, to be fully accredited under the Mental Health Coalition’s Lived Experience audit process.
Applications for the PhD scholarship close on December 13. For more information or to apply visit www.unisa.edu.au/health-sciences/research/Scholarships/unitingsa-phd-scholarship/